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Rackspace launches cloud computing performance surge against AWS

Customers hope Rackspace's overhauled data centers will improve provisioning time and allow more workloads to move to the cloud.

Rackspace's Infrastructure as a Service customers hope the company's new data centers will boost cloud computing performance and allow more workloads to move to the cloud.

Rackspace Hosting Inc. has re-architected its data center in Northern Virginia with 10 Gigabit Ethernet networks, the latest Intel Xeon X5 processors and solid-state storage. The company claims sizable boosts in cloud computing performance with its new Performance Server line of offerings.

For example, one beta tester of the new Performance Servers saw a manifold increase in transactions per second in a Microsoft Corp. SQL Server database over dedicated hardware.

Commissions Inc., a real estate website based in Marietta, Ga., was constrained to about 400 transactions per second on bare-metal hardware with 32 GB of RAM. Now, a 120 GB Performance Server can offer more than 3,500 transactions per second, according to Matthew Swanson, chief software architect for the site.

This will be a big leg up. I expect we'll use the performance tiers for a significant [portion] of our systems.

Aaron Rankin, CTO of Sprout Social Inc.

Granted, there's far more RAM in the new Performance Server, meaning there are more transactions per second anyway, but the Performance Server is also easier to provision and offers more bang for the buck.

Before, Swanson said, a 30 GB server instance was priced at $2.64 per hour. Now, 120 GB of RAM will cost $5.44 per hour -- four times the gigabytes for about twice the price.

Meanwhile, provisioning in the cloud is "night and day" compared to bare-metal servers, Swanson said.

"Depending on the gear, it could take several days to possibly several weeks for deployment before this," he said.

Swanson isn't the only customer with complaints about Rackspace's cloud computing performance for re-sizing or re-provisioning servers.

Rackspace has lagged competitors like Amazon Web Services (AWS) in provisioning time, according to Aaron Rankin, chief technology officer of Sprout Social Inc., a social media management startup based in Chicago.

"When creating a new server or resizing a server, EC2 seemingly takes about 30 to 120 seconds," Rankin said. "Rackspace, especially with resizes, can take many hours to more than a day."

Rankin said his firm is very interested in the new Performance Servers for their RAM-hungry and I/O-intensive services.

"To date, Rackspace's cloud offerings put us at a disadvantage when compared to services hosted on AWS, which offers larger instance sizes and IOPS commitments," he said.

"This will be a big leg up," Rankin added. "I expect we'll use the performance tiers for a significant [portion] of our systems."

New Rackspace cloud computing performance specs

There are two new classes of Performance Servers based on this infrastructure. Performance 1 Class is available in 1, 2, 4 or 8 GB RAM sizes and costs 4 cents an hour for 1 GB, 8 cents an hour for 2, 16 for 4 and 32 cents for 8 GB RAM.

Performance 2 Class spans 15 GB to 120 GB RAM, scaling in 15 GB increments from 68 cents per hour for the 15 GB size to $5.44 per hour for the 120 GB size. Rackspace claimed the Performance 2 class is capable of up to 80,000 read IOPS and 70,000 write IOPS from solid-state disks.

With the data center redesign, each host has a total of 40 Gbps bandwidth, with 20 Gbps for redundant connections to storage and 20 Gbps for redundant 10 Gbps connections to the network, so even in the event of a failure scenario, 10 Gbps performance would (theoretically) be preserved.

Rackspace's data centers in Dallas, Chicago and London will have this same overhaul later this month. Hong Kong and Sydney data centers will get it next year.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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